Updated: Apr 1
Lately I’ve been reading a lot about creating daily rituals. More specifically, morning rituals that are considered both healthy and positive to set yourself up for a more productive and fulfilling day. The more I’ve read about committing to a morning ritual, the more I’ve come to learn that doing so seems to result in a myriad of benefits. These include having a greater sense of calm, being more focused, reducing procrastination, unleashing creativity, reducing the need for decision making, and perhaps the most surprising and seemingly counterintuitive to me - freeing up your time (how can adding in extra things you have to do in the morning actually create more time for yourself?)
Despite some of my initial reservations, the more I’ve delved into the topic of morning rituals the harder it has become for me to ignore the potential benefits and the fact that a large number of successful entrepreneurs attribute a portion of their business success to their daily morning ritual.
With this in mind, I decided to ask a number of established Shanghai entrepreneurs what their daily morning rituals are, if any, to kickstart their day in the right way. And what benefit they receive from doing this...
“I feel best on the mornings when I wake up without an alarm. I brush my teeth, and drink a cup of warm water with lemon. Then I meditate for 10 minutes, write in my gratitude journal, feed and play with my cat Olive, do a bit of stretching and head out the door either to a yoga class or to my shop for a green smoothie and a coffee.
These days I’m successful in these practices 4-5 mornings of the week. That said, since starting my business and having a less consistent schedule and more late nights, I have struggled to keep my morning routine daily.
On the mornings that I wake up late and don’t make time to meditate or journal, I feel I am less focused and less patient.
My morning routine grounds me and sets me up for feeling on top of my game all day long. "
- Elizabeth Schieffelin, Founder of Lizzy’s All-Natural, Zenergy Wellness Center & By Lizzy
“There is always an internal debate as an entrepreneur to set-up a daily routine. After three years
since quitting my job and running my own business, I am a firm believer in maintaining flexibility.
For most start-ups it’s very hard to predict what fires will need to be put out on a daily basis so the further stress of maintaining a set schedule isn’t realistic. Every morning, I actually try not to have a set time for waking up, or even set an alarm clock. Instead, I opt to have a good rest, a calm start to the day, and make the most of time to myself. This is the best any entrepreneur, especially women, can do for themselves. Personally, I prefer to never skip breakfast, read the news and do a morning workout.”
- Michelle Li, Co-founder / COO of Ruiwen She Power; Founder of Sorority China
"I used to find the concept of a 'morning routine' insane and impractical considering every day brought unique challenges. Not to mention the fact I'm usually trying to maximise sleep from late nights working in the food industry. But this year I have decided to start exercising the discipline of a morning ritual. I have decided I need to minimise anxiety and maximise self-love, reflection, positivity, productivity, and a sense of achievement on a daily basis.
Late last year I started a policy of never scheduling anything before 11am - the mornings are dedicated to the scarce 'me time' I can manage. Now I'm trying to take it a step further by introducing a proper 'routine'.
First, I chug a full glass or bottle of water (usually one of my few during the day - I hate the taste of water or I simply forget and so hydration is usually limited to coffee or wine - terrible I know!) with a capsule of milk thistle to detox my liver and aid digestion - both key for those in hospitality!
I have started practicing at least 10 minutes of meditation in the lotus position to begin to try to train my capacity for patience, followed by writing in a gratitude journal (recently published by a dear friend of mine - 'I Am Grateful' by Lizzy Schieffelin, soon available at Egg!) which triggers a conversation with myself about my mindset and priorities for the day. I then either squeeze in a workout to maximise my daily dose of endorphins or grab a coffee (laced with MCT oil to kick-start the brain!) with my boyfriend and read or chat.
Pro tip: the only element of this new routine that has been a staple for years is that I've reduced my wardrobe to only black - it's nice to save a limited brain capacity for more important decisions than what to wear. At 11am I'm out the door on my way to a meeting or one of my restaurants for another packed day!"
- Camden Hauge, Owner-Operator of Egg, Bird, Bitter; Founder of Shanghai Supperclub; Co-founder + Partner of SOCIAL SUPPLY
“I’m such a messy person and have a lack of self discipline! The only thing that can be counted as my morning ritual is taking the time for a cup of tea by my window. There’s a giant beautiful tree I like to look at each morning that always brings comfort and peace to me.
I have no idea how old it is or what it has been through.
But it must have seen its share of births, deaths, tears and laughter in such a historical compound.
And I’m almost sure that it will live longer than me, and most of us.
I like to see the look of it changing during different seasons, leaves turning from green to yellow to red and then gone. Next year the buds come out again, birds singing as always. This morning ritual of mine is so effortless, yet so powerful.”
- Yilei Wu, Co-founder of Xinle Lu
“I used to wake up suuuuper early - like 5am, and I’m actually not opposed to returning to that at some point, but recently I’ve been waking up around 6.30am-ish, which feels right. I’m VERY intense about sleep, so if I’m super tired or feel like I will need an extra hour, I won’t set my alarm I'll just see what happens. But generally I do try to be disciplined about it, because I find that if I don’t make time for what I need to do to 'get in the zone' as my dad would say, I feel kind of worse than I would with an hour less sleep.
So yeah, I wake up, and then like to immediately do something active to wake my body up. It changes depending on the day, and I don’t really have set days for various exercises, but it’s anything from doing a 7 minute workout app, to going for a run, or a swim in the Huangpu (joking!) or walking my dog- just something to be like 'HI YOU ARE AWAKE NOW!!!'
If I’m feeling particularly tired or down, I’ll take a very, very short cold shower. Which is brutal but you feel like the most capable person in the world afterwards, so it’s worth it. Then I make lemon water and apple cider vinegar tea, which I read about a while back and was like 'oh ok, you health freaks' but I actually love it and crave it and have only amazing things to say about how it makes you feel, placebo effect or not.
While I drink the tea I try to just kind of chill and think about the day and just lounge for around 10 minutes without really doing anything. Some might call this meditation. My dog Mario would call this being needlessly ignored.
One big thing that has been great over the past year and has really helped my mornings is that I don’t have WeChat notifications on - or any notifications on actually. So I can use my phone for the workout app, or music or whatever without getting bombarded by things I might not be ready for at 7am. So that’s nice.
Ok, so then I make breakfast and will maybe FaceTime my parents or sister for a quick chat because I love and miss them a lot. Then I walk my dog and either listen to music or a news podcast, because I started to find that reading the news on the internet felt endless and overwhelming and became another chore. And then I make (incredibly caffeinated) tea, and start work!
All in all, this probably takes 1 - 1.5 hours, even with the workouts, which are pretty short. But it really sets me up for the best possible day. Or at least the best possible day given whatever else is going on in my work/life.”
- Lexie Comstock, Founder of Strictly Cookies
Regardless of what your morning ritual might look like, the key to creating and committing to it is to do something that is personal and that resonates with you. I’ll be taking a closer look at my own morning rituals (or lack thereof) and committing to at least one daily practice that will help me to wake up and be awesome!
By Rachel Barac, Founder of BOSS LADY